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Bristol Jazz Festival – a few suggestions

March 5, 2014

Now the city I live in actually has a jazz (and blues) festival – hurrah! – it seems wrong to let it go by without a preview. I’ve done a bit to help promote the thing online, so am bound to recommend it in its entirety. The atmosphere down at Colston Hall at the first festival a year ago was lovely all weekend, and there’s every reason to expect that again – more buzz audible this time round, I think. Lets hope there are big crowds for the likes of the Ilett-Bruce band’s swing dance extravaganza, Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley, and Zigaboo Medaliste.

But since it’s a proper festival, money, timing and stamina will stop you hearing everything, so here are a few more personal recommendations from the jazzier end of the programme…

Andy Sheppard has two nice shows (and a workshop), both in duo. Friday sees him perform with John Parricelli on guitar and it’s always a pleasure to see these two old collaborators reunited. I imagine they’ll do some stuff from their one CD for Provocateur (review here), which sounds lovely ten years on. I don’t know his other duo partner, percussionist Michele Rabbia but I imagine he’s more likely to push the sax into more unexpected areas so looking forward to hearing that on Sunday as well.

Hadn’t heard of Beka Gokiaschvili before this date, but he does look like a remarkable young piano virtuoso so must be worth a listen on Saturday afternoon. Earlier there’s a chance to hear the amazing guitarist Howard Alden with good old Alan Barnes.

Then on Sunday the Interplay project which has pianist Kate Williams playing Bill Evans tunes with the Bristol Ensemble should be fascinating, and there’s new music from the Festival Composers’ Ensemble, a new agglomeration of the city’s top players. Here they are in rehearsal

That clashes with the local launch for Get the Blessing’s new album, supported by another brilliant guitarist, in a rather different style, Dan Messore. Messore’s band features another saxophone great who lives in our region but isn’t seen in Bristol nearly often enough Iain Ballamy. There’s also a welcome appearance in the afternoon by the great Wes-style guitarist Jim Mullen with his organ trio – the festival artistic director has excellent taste in guitar-players…

All those are ticketed gigs in the main hall or the Lantern. There’s also a more or less continuous free programme in the Foyer. As last year, that features pretty well everyone who plays jazz regularly in Bristol. No highlights from me, just drop by and see if you like what you hear. That’s what it’s for!

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